Who are the most important players in team sports

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William Ziemba
Leonard MacLean


We present a statistical model using box scores from games as data to develop a theory to determine which players are the most important to success in team sports. We apply this to NBA basketball, NFL football and NHL hockey. The results show that the most important players for team success are not necessarily the most outstanding players. Moreover, its generally much more successful to have several good players rather than a single outstanding player. In NBA basketball, NFL football, and NHL hockey defensive players often stand out. The results are useful for good team construction, game strategy and recruiting of players.

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